Liquid Lessons

Photo courtesy of
‘Every Food Fits – Master Mixology’
courtesy of ‘staceyviera’

The “silly season” is upon us, as a friend likes to call the December holiday rush. Suddenly everyone wants to get together and social opportunities are crammed into every evening in a frenzy before year’s end. You definitely need some relief mixed into that crazy cocktail of fun and stress!

Wait, did I say cocktail?

Luckily the city is full of cocktail classes and other libation tastings to help you connect with friends in a lively way, so you can relax and learn useful something in the process. Even our local madhouse of Type A’s can see the cost benefit in that. So here’s a sampler of upcoming events to both imbibe and educate! Enjoy, and feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

The Columbia Room

Derek Brown’s cocktail laboratory is absolutely the best place to learn about the cocktail craft. I’ve taken several classes here and they are all outstanding – no matter which one you end up taking, you will be both entertained and educated by a mixture of fascinating historical information and practical knowledge. Classes are held on Wednesdays from 7-8:30pm for $65 a person, and worth every cent. Watch the site for the release of their winter schedule, or reserve a seat now for the Fall Pastry Chef Series – there are spots available for tonight’s tasting with Zak Miller of PS7’s (his desserts are killer); next up on 12/9 is Tiffany MacIsaac from Birch & Barley. The Chef Series is a great way to learn about pairings – Derek pairs two of the visiting chef’s dishes with cocktails, and then they switch roles, with the chef trying their hand at a cocktail while Derek attempts a dish. Mad fun. You need it.


Speaking of PS7’s, this restaurant is jam-packed with brilliant innovators (Gina Chersevani at bar, Peter Smith, Andrew Markert and Zak Miller in the kitchen) and is offering monthly noontime classes at $65. Up next on 12/12 is “Cookies and Milk” – with pastry chef Zak Miller helping you to expand your holiday cookie repetoire and Gina Chersevani mixing up some milk-based drinks that go beyond the usual (currently there’s a cereal milk cocktail on the menu that’s serious fun, you have to taste it to believe).

Photo courtesy of
‘The Tabard Cocktail’
courtesy of ‘Samer Farha’

Tabard Inn

I love the Tabard for its quirky creakiness, delicious food and that hypnotic fireplace – but most of all for Chantal Tseng’s cocktails. On 12/7 she’s hosting David Perkins from Utah’s High West Whiskey with two seatings at 5:30pm and 7pm. For $45 you’ll sample four rare whiskeys, two of Chantal’s cocktails, plus food! High West is touted as the world’s only “ski-in gastro-distillery” and that alone is worth a look, but the real value of the class is the chance to learn more about whiskey from a master distiller. Having one of the most gracious bartenders on hand just seals the deal.


JP Caceres is at it again (ok, couldn’t resist) with a holiday punch class on 12/9. If you are hosting a party, punch is possibly the best way to entertain your guests without ramping up your stress level. JP’s infectious sense of humor is also bound to help out, showcasing combinations like hard cider, sloe gin, and revamped egg nog (just not all in the same bowl!). Punch class is held from 7-9pm at $25.

Photo courtesy of
‘The Passenger 6’
courtesy of ‘maxedaperture’

Bourbon Steak

If your December is so chock-full already of events that you can’t see clear til the new year, Duane Sylvestre’s cocktail class on 1/30 may be just the thing. Held from 12-2pm and featuring snacks by Executive Chef David Varley as well, the class will cover the basics for mixology newbies with a mixture of demonstration and experimentation. Duane has a wonderful relaxed personality and should put you right at ease. $95 includes the class and parking.

If the idea of a class is just not your thing, tastings are even less stressful. All you have to do is show up and sip! On 12/11, EatBar is hosting a Holiday Sparkler Tasting featuring more than 20 fine champagnes and sparkling wine like Argyle Brut; it’s a whole afternoon of bubbles from 1-4pm at $36. You know you need bubbles. Or really go decadent with BlackSalt’s wine dinner on 12/8 with Jay McDonald of EIEIO Winery from the famed Willamette Valley, Oregon (no, I did not make that up) – a five-course dinner with dishes like salmon belly paired with this acclaimed winery’s best vintages for $145.

That’s just a sampler of what’s out there! So don’t despair, just plan an outing around a class or a tasting, and get your friends to join in the liquid learning fun. It’ll make the holidays go down much easier, promise.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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